Insight – Cracking the shell: Australian western rock lobsters ready to roll into Thailand

Australia and Thailand have finalised a new health certificate to allow live Australian western rock lobster to be exported to Thailand for human consumption.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment negotiated the technical requirements of the certification.

Western rock lobster enters Thailand for the first time

The health certificate (FX46 certificate) came into force on 1 September 2021. It applies to all rock lobster species eligible for import into Thailand.

The new certificate will allow Australia to export western rock lobsters to Thailand for the first time. It can also be used for tropical and ornate rock lobsters.

This outcome is the result of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s efforts to negotiate the technical requirements of the certification.

Exporters looking to export other species of rock lobster (for example southern rock lobster) should check with Thai importers about approval for the species. Importers seeking approval to import a species of rock lobster for the first time must undergo an audit by Thai authorities.

Australian rock lobster exporters should review Thai import requirements in the Manual of Importing Country Requirements.

Australian rock lobster exports

The value and volume of Australian rock lobster exports has fallen sharply since 2018–19 (see Figure 1). Disruptions in the China market and the closure of the global hospitality sector because of COVID-19 has affected rock lobster exports. This led to an overall reduction in Australia’s rock lobster harvest and lower prices for exported rock lobsters. The average price of rock lobster from 2016–17 to 2020–21 fell by 25.34% - from $81.67/kg to $60.94/kg.

Thailand is a growing market for Australian agricultural produce, including seafood. Exports of Australian rock lobster to Thailand have increased from $42,000 in 2019–20 to $9.4 million in 2020-21.

Rock lobster imports from Australia increased despite lower demand for premium food products due to COVID-19. Demand for premium food in Thailand is expected to grow as global travel resumes and the hospitality sector recovers from COVID-19 related restrictions.

Market diversification to drive future export

Market diversification is a priority for the Australian rock lobster sector. The reopening of global economies and efforts to build demand in new markets will boost future rock lobster exports.

The value of Australian rock lobster exports (all species) was $1.6 billion between 2018–19 and 2020–21. The value by species over this period is as follows:

  • Western rock lobster: $1 billion
  • Southern rock lobster: $548 million
  • Ornate and tropical rock lobster: $90 million.

Figure 1: Australian exports of rock lobster, 2016–17 to 2020–21

Aus_rock_lobster_exports

Resources

Austrade has more information about the Thailand market.

The Manual of Importing Country Requirements has details of Thailand’s import requirements for rock lobster.

The Australian Government’s network of Agriculture Counsellors provided information for this article. More information about the Agriculture Counsellor network, including contact details, is available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

Go further, faster with Austrade

Go to Austrade export services to learn the basics, find the right markets and understand market requirements.